Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Another Scholar Citing Me: Nicola F. Denzey on Cosmology and Fate

Cosmology and Fate

Nicola F. Denzey, in her book Cosmology and Fate in Gnosticism and Graeco-Roman Antiquity: Under Pitiless Skies (2013), cites me:
In a provocative article, Horace Hodges points out the highly technical nature of Pistis Sophia's astrological theory, including jargon such as 'squares,' 'trines' and '(periods of) influence.'[11] Jesus tells his disciples that he rotated the sphere of the zodiac first to the left then to the right, such that the stars would seem to move eastward along the ecliptic, then westward, thus thwarting the predictive powers of the astrologers based on now-antiquated knowledge of celestial movements. Hodges raises the possibility that somehow, the Hellenistic Greek astronomer Hipparchus's 'discovery' of the precession of the equinoxes (an apparent eastward motion of the zodiacal signs) and 'trepidation' - an apparent retrograde motion of the stars - eventually made its way into the Pistis Sophia's soteriology and cosmology. Since Hipparchus's work was known and cited by the Roman Greek astronomer Ptolemy (90–168 CE), it is perhaps not entirely controversial to suggest that Hipparchus's discoveries 'trickled down' to various religious authors of the second century CE, who posited in turn that only a deity of tremendous power might have effected such a dramatic cosmic shift as rotating the cosmic axis. Furthermore, the workings of this deity were known only to a privileged few through revelation or initiation; others (most notably, here, the supposedly learned astrologers peddling an alternate and intractable theory of determinism) only perpetuated a theory of enslavement that had been stealthily and irrevocably undone.
She adds a footnote:
[11] Horace Jeffrey Hodges, "Gnostic Liberation from Astrological Determinism: Hipparchan 'Trepidation' and the Breaking of Fate," VC 51/4 (1997), 368. In my opinion, Hodges accepts too uncritically the outdated notion that individuals in antiquity suffered a sense of cosmic pessimism and enslavement; nevertheless, the article provides some interesting insights into the cosmology of a woefully neglected text.
Quite a citation! Very complex! Of course, I'd need to review my article to be sure that my argument is correctly summarized. Also, "Jeffrey" should be "Jeffery." And I wish I weren't named "Horace" - but that's not the fault of the writer.

UPDATE: Nicola F. Denzey also goes by Nicola Denzey Lewis, which I ought to have noted before since her book was published under that name.



At 7:57 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

This must be very ex...citing.

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, and I am the "ex-" -- long divorced from the field.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:32 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

You may be an "ex," but you were there when a scholar needed you and could point to you: "ex" marks the spot.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Good point! I was a 'cite' for sore eyes.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:32 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

"...Hodges accepts too uncritically the outdated notion that individuals in antiquity suffered a sense of cosmic pessimism and enslavement."

Too uncritically? Well, how "critical" does one have to be on this question? Moreover, in which contexts?

Also, "too uncritically" is, at the outset, an awkward phrase, and were she to use the correct phrase here, the onus shifts to Denzy to properly describe and qualify her views, her retreat into "In my opinion..." nothwithstanding.

Moreover, does the fact that you may advance an outdated perception germane to the matter she summarizes from your work?

In any event, if she is going to criticize you on this point, she needs to elaborate a brief history of the literature representing the various histroigrphic descriptions of the antique mind that are being examined here.

At 7:48 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

My views on cosmic pessimism in late antiquity go back to Hans Jonas, and I've also been influenced by Hans Blumenberg, so my scholarship might well be out of date. But I published this article 20 years ago, and it was based on a presentation I gave in 1989, so I might not have been so out of date at the time.

Jeffery Hodges

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